Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh My Photobook

I have taken a lot of photos in the last few years.  I have them organized in Aperture on my Macbook, I've published them on Facebook and Flickr, and printed a few hundred of them.  The one thing that I have been wanting to do for a while is to start making photo books with them.

A few years ago, I created a photo book of our family for the year 2008.  The photo book was of average quality, and most of the shots in it were average at best.  Since my photography has gotten a bit better since then, I was eager to see how one would look now.

In May I decided to make a photo book for Aleena and her friend McKayla as a going away present.  The girls have been best friends for over three years, which was more than have of their lives.  Fairly frequently I get an idea like this, but I just procrastinate too long to get it done.  This time was different; more than a month before McKayla was going to move, I had created a photo book in Aperture and taken it to the camera store, Fotofile, in Central Chaengwattana.  This is the store where I purchase most of my camera supplies.  In the past year or two, I've probably spent $5,000 - $7,000 there.  While I am certainly not their biggest customer, I have spent enough that a lot of the employees know me by name and treat me pretty well.

Fotofile does not actually do the printing in the store.  They take the order and send it to a shop somewhere else in the city.  When I placed my order, I selected the A4 size (roughly equivalent to US Letter).  The book arrived a week later, and was size A5; roughly half the size of A4.  The nice large book that I had expected was tiny and flimsy looking.  To add insult to injury, they told me that the price was $55, instead of the $60 for the larger book.  I walked out without buying the books.

Tim called the shop for me and they explained to her that the photo quality wasn't high enough to print the larger size.  She explained that then someone should have called us (they had her number and my email address on the order) prior to printing, since the order clearly said the larger size.

So I created another version of the book.  This time instead of exporting as a PDF, I exported the original files and photobook as a Aperture library.  When I dropped it off, the shop tried to get me to buy the original books at a reduced cost, but when I told them that I wasn't interested, they ended up giving them to me.  Two or three days later Tim gets a call saying that they cannot use the Aperture format that I provided, and that I should export the photobook as a PDF X file.

On my third attempt, I brought three different photobooks.  As with each time, it takes the guys at Fotofile fifteen minutes to write up my order.       A few days after dropping it off, Tim received a call from the printer.  It turns out that it wasn't the quality of the image that was causing the issue, but rather that I had selected a smaller size when creating the photobook.  When I created them in Aperture, I didn't realize that I had selected a smaller size.  I had continued to modify the same book each time.  This was the first time that they told me what was actually wrong with the books.  While I was grateful to know, at that point I was so frustrated that I just canceled the order.

I had pretty much written off going back to the shop to order photobooks when they called Tim and explained that the print shop owner would be in the store.    So Tim and I went over and met with her.  It was actually very beneficial.  She was able to answer a bunch of questions that I had.  I had brought over yet another book to print, and she pointed out a few things in it that I would probably want to change.  Additionally, she was selling vouchers for the books that saved 30-50%.  I ended up buying a bunch of vouchers, and was pretty confident that things would go more smoothly.

After I went home I fixed the suggestions that she gave me, and the next day I returned to drop off the modified file.  The two people who usually help me at the shop weren't there.  I had this feeling that something would go wrong, but an employee wrote up the order, and everything seemed fine.

Today I stopped by the camera shop to check on something and I asked if my book was ready.  It had been six days since I dropped it off, so I thought it would be ready any day.  I was hoping to see it before we left for Hawaii early Thursday morning.  One of the employees called the printer, and after a few minutes, it became clear that there was a problem.  After another ten minutes, I saw the manager walk over to one of the locked cases and pull out a plastic bag containing the order form and the CD containing the file with my photobook.  The person had taken my order last week and then put it on the shelf and let it sit for a week.  They apologized and told me that it would be ready on Friday, to which I told them to take their time because I would be gone for two weeks.

I was very annoyed, but not surprised by this latest problem.  If there had been a problem at the printer that had delayed the book, I would have been okay with it.  The fact that it sat on a shelf for almost a week just really pissed me off.  Before I had asked about the book, I was ready to buy a $200 memory card for the trip.  As I was leaving, I told them that I didn't want it.

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